Mushrooms are classified as neither plant nor animal, but fungi, producing reproductive spores that travel by air and water. Derived from the Anglo- French musherum or musseron, they were introduced commercially as food in the 1600s by a Parisian farmer, but they’d been prominent for centuries. In fact, ancient Egyptians believed mushrooms to be magical, ancient Romans reserved them as a culinary delicacy, and Traditional Chinese Medicine used them in healing supplements and tinctures. Dried mushrooms were even found among the possessions of Ötzi the “Iceman,” a well-preserved mummy from 3300 B.C.
Two parts of a mushroom can be extracted and used in skin care: the mycelium and the fruiting body, which are the sources of proteins, vitamins, enzymes and amino acids that help beautify the complexion. For the last decade, cosmetic formulas have used mushroom in a range of products, with increasing popularity year after year, and showing no signs of slowing down.
Why it’s a skincare all-star:
Although they can be comprised of up to 95 percent water, mushrooms still maintain a treasure trove of nutrients, including zinc, potassium, selenium and vitamins B and D. Charlene DeHaven, MD, clinical director of Innovative Skincare, notes that this gives the fungi potent antiaging, antioxidant and anti- inflammatory properties. “Mushrooms also deliver antimicrobial benefits, making them useful for treating acne,” she says.
Craig Kraffert, MD, dermatologist and president of K-beauty brand Amarte, expands on mushroom’s popularity as a skincare ingredient: “Mesima, or black hoof mushroom extract, is added to formulations for its antioxidant and anti- inflammatory benefits, and has been shown to relieve eczema symptoms. Research in Korea and Taiwan has also suggested that mesima can brighten hyperpigmentation and even aid in treating melanoma.”
But not all mushrooms are created equal, points out Chase Polan, founder of organic, wildcrafted skincare line Kypris: “Those beneficial to skin’s beauty contain a wealth of hydrating polysaccharides and phytonutrients.” For example, maitake, chaga and shiitake mushrooms are sought-after cosmetic ingredients thanks to their collagen-boosting, anti- inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and silver ear mushroom is a hydrating powerhouse that can hold up to 500 times its weight in water.
The Fire + Ice Facial (60 min./$185) at McLean Dermatology and Skincare Center in McLean, Virginia, is designed to resurface the skin, smoothing and softening while stimulating cell renewal to reduce signs of aging. It begins with a thorough cleanse followed by an intensive clay-based treatment mask featuring exfoliating botanicals and retinol, then a rejuvenating mask that nourishes and cools the skin. Next, the esthetician applies eye cream and iS CLINICAL Active Serum, containing brightening mushroom extract and botanical kojic acid. “The mushrooms are packed with selenium and vitamins B and D, which fight free radicals caused by oxidative sun damage and environmental pollutants,” notes the center’s dermatologist, Lily Talakoub, MD. “Clients often book Fire + Ice before a special event because it imparts an instant glow.”
When clients of Carly Jones, owner of BellaPelle Aesthetics and Beauty Lounge in Urbandale, Iowa, are asked how they get such radiant skin, they
tend to credit It’s a Secret (75 min./$180), Jones’ popular service featuring Amarte products. After enzymatic exfoliation and Rezenerate, a microneedling alternative, Jones applies Amarte Chlorella Mask and Wonder Cream (according to skin type) to prevent collagen breakdown. “Wonder Cream is one of my top sellers; it uses mushroom beta-glucan coupled with nanoencapsulated retinol to give skin a ‘U-turn’ in the aging process,” she says. The facial ends with red LED therapy to minimize fine lines.
The word “transformation” is what Leslie Johnson, director of The Spa at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California, hears most often from clients who experience the Ocean Alchemy Facial (50 min./$170). The treatment’s exfoliating mask features pomegranate pith enzymes and silver ear mushroom for a megadose of antioxidants and moisture. After a facial massage, Kypris Cerulean—a mask rich in sea ingredients and two types of mushroom extract—is applied to soothe and hydrate the skin. “It’s a cooling yet active mask. Clients love using it at home as an overnight treatment for its oxygenating and softening properties,” says Johnson.
• There are more than 10,000 different types of mushrooms.
• Mushroom extract is being utilized by some companies as biodegradable packing material.
• The largest living organism is believed to be the honey mushroom in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, spreading through tree roots for 2,200 acres.
• Ongoing research is being conducted on the possibility of using mushroom as a natural pesticide.
• There are more than 30 species of mushroom that glow in the dark.
• China is responsible for most of the world’s mushroom production, an estimated 70 percent.
–by Alisha Racker
This story first appeared in the February issue of Dayspa magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.